2019 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Dawson Knox, Ole Miss
Dawson Knox 2019 NFL Draft Prospect Profile Scouting Report
Evaluating tight ends is hard work and fraught with difficulty. Dawson Knox fits the profile of a player that myself and other evaluators definitely like but has massive holes in his resume. This is the list of tight ends drafted in the first and second rounds in the last decade.
There are some huge hits (Gronk, Zach Ertz, even Evan Engram) but some massive misses as well (Brandon Pettigrew, Richard Quinn, Troy Niklas, Gavin Escobar). The position is not easy to project to the next level because so many of these college tight ends were not a prominent part of their college offenses. It is hard to create production thresholds for tight ends because so few are drafted highly, most NFL teams use only one of them so the production isn't as distributed and we are in a particular dearth of fantasy football relevance for tight ends in the NFL. Trey Burton finished TE6 last season with 76 targets and only five tight ends saw more than 100 targets.
So where does Dawson Knox fit in this conversation? This years' 2019 NFL Draft class features uber-studs in Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson. Irv Smith Jr. seems to be in a tier of his own as the third-best tight end in this draft but Knox is pretty intriguing to me personally. Dawson Knox was a quarterback in high school but decided that he wanted to play tight end in college which forced him into walk-on status in college. He played with not one, not two but three NFL-quality wide receivers in D.K Metcalf, A.J Brown and even DeMarkus Lodge.
It is important to know about Knox that he basically did not produce at all. He caught no touchdowns in college career and played in only 17 games. He had single-digit shares of both team receptions and receiving yards. Basically, Knox is a ball of athletic clay. There have been elite tight ends in the NFL who did not produce much in college. Travis Kelce had less than 1,000 yards in college as did George Kittle (who played in four seasons at Iowa). Generally, tight ends that do actually produce in college are good probabilistic bets but it is impossible to rule out unproductive college tight ends the way it is with wide receivers.
The place that Knox shined was in his athleticism. Knox did not run a 40 yard dash at the NFL combine due to a surgery but according to reports, he ran a 4.57 40 at his pro day. For a tight end that weighs 254 pounds, that is outstanding. To put it in context, when adjusted for height and weight, that is just about as fast as uber-prospect Noah Fant.
The rest of Knox's movement numbers are pretty solid. His agility score is 74th percentile for right ends, and his arm length/wingspan are both favorable projections for an NFL tight end. He is not Mike Gesicki or Noah Fant in terms of athleticism (or he wouldn't be a sleeper tight end prospect) but I do believe he has projectable athleticism.
Dawson Knox Final Verdict
The things to like about Dawson Knox is that he profiles more like a pass-catching tight end than a Brandon Pettigrew-style blocker. His experience as a former quarterback means that he understands route concepts and picks up on offenses relatively quickly. Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy reports that the NFL "loves" Knox, so he seems like a likely pick on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. The Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars are two teams that have shown outright interest in Knox as a draft pick. Speaking in terms of probability and risk, Knox would be a quintessential high risk, high reward pick if he is taken on Day Two of the NFL Draft.
As a third-round pick with zero college touchdowns, an NFL team would be taking on a significant risk at a spot where teams normally expect to draft immediate contributors. On the other hand, if he falls into the fifth round or later, he makes a much more interesting expected value proposition. His lithe, athletic frame fits the mold of a modern pass-catching tight end but I would not expect him to ever be an average blocker and that could keep him off the field for quite some time.
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